Penang Assam Laksa Recipe (Nyonya Hot and Sour Noodles in Fish Soup)
February 01st, 2008 111 Comments

Penang Assam Laksa Recipe (Nyonya Hot and Sour Noodles in Fish Soup)

Penang Assam Laksa
Penang Assam Laksa pictures (3 of 10)

Before I start writing this post, I have a confession to make. I have an Asian (Chinese/Malaysian) mouth. In my gastronomic dictionary, it simply means that I can’t live without rice and noodles, soy sauce, sambal belacan, spicy and pungent food–the foods of my Chinese-Malaysian root.

Just this past week, I had a massive Asian mouth attack. Granted, I savored some of the best French foods–foie gras, cheese, mussels, seafood, duck, terrine, and the list goes on. However, three days into eating meals after meals of immaculate French food, I got bored of it…it’s too heavy and luxurious for my cheap taste. No offense to French cuisine connoisseur, I wanted something without cream or butter or sauces or excessive details; I wanted something simple and straightforward such as my Asian rice and noodle dishes–Hokkien mee, fried rice noodles, steamed rice rolls, char kway teow, chicken rice, and especially Penang Assam Laksa.

Penang Assam Laksa

On the flight back home, I knew that I had to make Penang Assam Laksa to cure my Asian mouth disease and fix my craving. So, I went to the market and assembled the long list of ingredients and made myself a small pot of Penang Assam Laksa, or Nyonya noodles in spicy and tangy fish broth/soup.

A staple–and arguably the most famous–hawker food in Penang, Penang Assam Laksa is very addictive due to the spicy and sour taste of the fish broth. Tamarind is used generously in the soup base and hence the word Assam (means tamarind in Malay). In addition to tamarind, assam keping or peeled tamarind is also commonly added to give it extra tartness. Another secret ingredient is Polygonum leaf (marketed as Vietnamese mint leaf in the United States) or daun kesom/daun laksa. While the best Assam Laksa broth is infused with the aromatic ginger flower (bunga kantan), I made without it because I couldn’t find this special ingredient in the market. Of course, no Assam Laksa is complete without belacan and dollops of heh ko/prawn paste (the dark paste on the spoon).

Polygonum Leaves/Vietnamese Mint Leaves (Daum Kesom/Daun Laksa)

Anyway, my Penang Assam Laksa was spot on–hot, spicy, sour, pungent, and full of flavors. It was very delicious and as good as the ones served by hawkers in Penang. At the first taste of this Penang Assam Laksa, I felt like being home. For now, I declare my my Asian mouth syndrome sorted.

Other “rice & noodles” recipes on Rasa Malaysia:

  1. Penang Char Hor Fun (炒河粉)
  2. Penang Hokkien Mee (Prawn Mee / Har Meen / Mee Yoke / 福建虾面)
  3. Claypot Chicken Rice (without Claypot)
  4. Penang Chee Cheong Fun/Steamed Rice Rolls
  5. Kerabu Bee Hoon
  6. Indian Mee Goreng/Indian Fried Noodles
  7. Fried Vermicelli Xiamen Style
  8. Malaysian-style Soto Ayam/Chicken Noodle Soup
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111 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Manggy says:

    Welcome back!
    That’s the great thing about learning to cook– in any part of the world you can satisfy your very specific craving :p

  2. Andaliman says:

    RM, I can understand why you get bored, since I work and have to cook Western style food all the time.

    Those leaves, in Indonesia, it’s known as daun laksa.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yummm….salivating just looking at the photo and waiting for the recipe!! Luckily, recently in New Zealand, I found bunga kantan!! Thanks for the wonderful blog.


  4. May says:

    One true Anak Malaysia! Yum yum laksa, awesome job!

  5. Love_at_first_bite says:

    Wow those look sooo good! I know exactly what you mean about having an Asian mouth. I spent a month in Spain and by the end of it I had tried more Chinese restaurants in the town i was in than i had tapas bars. I’m going to have to make some Hokkien Mee with your recipe this week after seeing this post.

  6. SteamyKitchen says:

    Welcome home!! Will call you this weekend.

    xo, j

  7. Crunchasarus Rex says:

    I would learn how to cook too.. if only i can get the ingredients.. :)

  8. rebekah says:

    Oooooh!! Beautiful photos of one of my favourite Malaysian foods. I can almost smell it. :)

    I can’t wait for the recipe. I love Assam Laksa and have been looking for a really good recipe for ages.


  9. Terry B says:

    What beautiful photos! I know what you mean about the tastes of home. When we travel, no matter how wonderful the cuisine is [and France is about as good as it gets to me], coming home to our own kitchens is always so welcoming.

  10. Lori Lynn says:

    Those photos are mouthwatering!

  11. R khooks says:

    Oh my goodness! I know exactly how you feel. I live in Paris and people don’t believe when I say malaysian/asian cuisine is the best. Nothing beats a bowl of steaming spicy assam laksa or won ton mee or rendang curry…just thinking of it is making me drool ;-)

  12. lucia says:

    asam laksa! i love it! yes indeed it is da’ femes (in team bsg style) hawker food in penang!

    i’m sure your asam laksa is very delicious, BY, from the look of it.

    aiya but pity no ginger flower as that is the ingredient i love most. in fact whenever i buy laksa i always ask them to add more ginger flower.

    about this polygonum leaf – it is call ‘poo hor’ in hokkien right?

    • joey says:

      not “poo hor”!! “poo hor” is mint leaf…. if i’m not mistaken this leaf should call “chian hong” in hokkien! mostly use in asam curry

  13. Chuck says:

    I know exactly what you mean about getting Asian cravings while in France. I enjoy French cuisine, but after a few days I also need a fix of Asian flavors, especially the heat from chili peppers!

    Every time I visit Paris, I’ll end up in the Vietnamese district to get some comfort food. Plus, it’s easier to communicate in Vietnamese than in my bad French.

    BTW, the polygonum leaf is rau răm in Vietnamese, a.k.a. Vietnamese coriander.

  14. JadedOne says:

    Welcome back RM!! Dude, I totally feel you on the Asian mouth thing. I mentioned this on my blog, but towards the last part of our France trip, we started eating ramen to hold us over until we got home. The first week getting home, we ate Asian food exclusively hehe.

  15. Anonymous says:

    It looks very delicious. You are a great cook. Is this the only kind of fish we use in asam laksa?

  16. Kevin says:

    The soup looks amazing! Great photo!

  17. Anonymous says:

    The pics are amazing! Did u try the fish soup in France? It looks like laksa but without the assam flavour. I can get dried bunga kantan (by Hup Loong) here in Canada for C$2/pkt. I’ll be more than happy to send u some.
    Now I am getting hungry…..

  18. Zen Chef says:

    This is a thing of beauty.
    You really have the magic touch for food and pictures. Nice job!

  19. Oppss says:

    Oh my god!!!! your asam laksa looked great!! Drooling~~
    I love asam laksa and have been craving for it. Never made it myself coz hubby doesnt really fancy it. I dont want to spend time and effort making it and end up eating all by myself.
    awww.. wish you are one of my neighbors. >_<

  20. teckiee says:

    Do agree when you say its not penang asam laksa with out the ‘har kou’. Happy Chinese new year!

  21. Piggy says:

    wow, the laksa must be yummy with so much of shredded fish in the broth! (massive drooling!)

    Do you think that cooking Penang laksa is tedious? I tried it once, but I’ve not been cooking it again… the whole process is just too daunting for me.. ;-)

  22. annechung says:

    I blog about how terrific food is abroad but secretly I eat more Chinese food when I’m traveling. Every where in France, even in remote villages we sneak into Chinese restaurants many times during the trip, even in Paris, we just can’t shake this craving for Chinese/Malaysian food. We can almost call London home because of the great Chinese food.I’m with you.

  23. Hazza says:

    Great looking dish you made there! How many servings did you do? Seems a lot of trouble for one meal.. I admire your motivation to do this elaborate dish.

  24. Keropok Man says:

    i am suddenly craving for penang laksa after viewing this post!

  25. WokandSpoon says:

    I LOOOVVVEEE assam laksa! Haven’t had it for ages though – and I’m too lazy to make it! I’ll just have to wait till my mum visits me again so she can make it for me! You’ve definitely given me a craving!

  26. Imbi &amp; Itchy says:

    I have those cravings too whenever I travel but the funny thing is, whenever I’m back home, I’d get adventurous with non-Malaysian food soon after. Well …

    Your laksa looks good! Still can’t find good ones in KL as oppose to those served in Penang.

  27. Precious Pea says:

    I am salivating looking at your bowl of assam laksa. Absolutely lovely!

  28. spc says:

    OMG … I swear, I am absolutely drooling right now..!!!

  29. Veron says:

    You absolutely make the best looking and I’m sure best tasting dishes. I say this because you could make an unfamiliar dish look so infinitely appealing to me!

  30. PrincessJournals says:

    love love love anything assam! *wink* yup, sad tht we cant find bunga kantan here. i wonder if s&k wud be able to get us some thru their ‘connection’.

    i also have daun kesum and since im not as rajin as u r, i use them in my asam laksa maggi. takde real asam laksa, maggi pun jadilah kan? hehe.

  31. Nate 2.0 says:

    I love it. You’re making me drool!

  32. Dwiana P says:

    absolutely delish food!!

  33. kimmy says:

    droooll – i can taste the tang of the tamarind in my mouth. absolutely beautiful foto

  34. holybasil says:

    I love your assam laksa, the photo is mouth watering – I especially like the mint garnish :)

  35. mycookinghut says:

    Looks delicious!!! Where I come from, our Laksa tend to be served with hard boiled egg, which I love so much and lots of Mint leaves!! Soupe de Poisson and the Laksa fish soup are different in the sense of the taste as we Malaysians tend to use a lot of spices in the aspect cooking. For them, it could be too spicy.
    Next time if you go to France again, try Bouillabaisse – the traditional Provençal fish stew. It’s way better than Soupe de Poisson. Tastier and more interesting!

  36. MyF says:

    i so loveee laksa so much i can’t live without it! urs looks gorgeous! i can imagine the long ingredients… but its so worth all the effort! :-)

  37. Rasa Malaysia says:

    All – thanks for your comments. I love them…keep them coming.

    Lucia – no, polygonum leaf is called “cham hom”, por ho is mint leaf.

    Chuck – noted about Vietnamese coriander. :)

    Anonymous – mackerel is great for laksa and they are not hard to find in the market.

    Anonymous – thanks for your offer abour dried bunga kantan, I know those, but it’s just not the same. ;)

    Cooking Hut – I know about hard-boiled eggs, they are usually offered in Malay Assam Laksa, but not Chinese ones. I love it though. I did try Bouillabaisse, it tastes like soupe de poisson with seafood…similar stock I believe. I think I still prefer Italian Ciopinno in that sense. :P

  38. Anonymous says:


    i’ve read & copied ur recipe, but there are a few things which i don’t understand..

    firstly i stay in singapore, so most of the spices should be available in provision shops if i’m correct.

    1. what’s assam keping? peeled tamarind?- so am i supposed t buy 2 tamarinds and peel one of them?

    2. How do i get the tamarind juice? – do i need t pound the whole tamarind or the juice will come out once water is added?

    3. Do i put the peeled tamarinds without crushing or anything in the pot?

    4. Can i pre-process & saute the spices into a paste and keep it in the fridge till i need t use it, or do i have t do on the spot?

    5. Where do i get fish sauce and what exactly is it?

    6. What does “1 cucumber (julienned)” stand for?

    …I’m looking forward to cook this dish for my mom(:
    We both love penang laksa so much that we always travel t malaysia t have it(:

    also, sorry for being such a bug by troubling you):

    hahah i’m quite a lousy cook, so i don’t really understand the cooking terms. hee:P


  39. Anonymous says:

    RM, the dish looks awesome. There are so many kinds of mackerel here – Indian, American, Norwegian, Galong-galong! Can you tell me which kind is better? Thank you so much….

  40. laura says:

    WOW!!! I just found your site. I haven’t had assam laksa for decades. I had recipes from Malaysia but they all are long-winded and majority of the stuff I can’t fine here in Ottawa Canada.
    Your recipe is a tad shorter so I’m gonna go hunt up some of the ingredients. Probably won’t get everything but I figure something is better than NOTHING! I so miss the food in M’sia.

  41. Sya says:

    I tried making this penang assam laksa using your penang assam laksa recipe and they are so good.

  42. June says:

    HEY =)
    i gave this recipe to my mum and she went to the tamu and markets just to find all the ingredients! Thx so much for posting the recipe!! This recipe is my mum’s fav!

  43. pingmouse says:

    hi bee yin, thank you so much for sharing your recipe. I did it last week and hubby and I both love it. He has already requested that I make it again soon:)

    Made an entry in my blog with step by step pictures, hope you dont mind.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I regret not getting all the ingredients that couldn’t begotten easily here in UK before I fly over..
    Now, have to make do with the second or no grade ingredients I could find in Asia Market here :(
    Gosh, looking over these pics at the middle of the cold winter night, my stomach growls for more..
    Assam laksa is always my TOP 1 food..will definately make it one day, soon enough!
    THanks for the recipe.

  45. Mei says:


    1. what's assam keping? peeled tamarind?- so am i supposed t buy 2 tamarinds and peel one of them?

    Assam keeping or tamarind slices are pre-prepared already and made from dried tamarind fruit so it's usually dried. Buying two tamarinds and slicing them won't give you the same effect, unfortunately.

    2. How do i get the tamarind juice? – do i need t pound the whole tamarind or the juice will come out once water is added?

    You need to buy a block of tamarind paste from your Asian store, add water and strain to retain the juice.

    3. Do i put the peeled tamarinds without crushing or anything in the pot?

    Dried peeled tamarinds need to be washed clean before tossing them into the pot.

    4. Can i pre-process & saute the spices into a paste and keep it in the fridge till i need t use it, or do i have t do on the spot?

    If you like, you can keep the balance and use it for other things like spicy sour curries and so forth.

    5. Where do i get fish sauce and what exactly is it?

    Fish sauce is nampla in Thai and you can get it at any Asian store.

    6. What does "1 cucumber (julienned)" stand for?

    Julienne is a cooking term that refers to thinly slicing items into stripes.

  46. laksa lover says:

    my most favourite penang food,even though i am a penang girl…XD
    tx to have the fantastic picture here to release my enzire

  47. Daniel – I guess you have my work cut out for me :) Thanks!

  48. Daniel – glad you love the Assam Laksa. You should tell York Hotel to fly me next time instead. ;)

  49. PaiLi says:

    I love your recipes! Have a question and hope you’ll be able to reply soon! Wanting to make Assam Laksa this weekend and have been craving for it.

    Where do you get Bunga Kantan & prawn paste? I live in South Bay area, California. Haven’t seen any of those in Ranch or Lions, etc. Can you tell me where you find them?

    Thanks so much in advance!

  50. Karen says:

    Are you able to get your hands on a Thai Laksa recipe. There is this Penang restaurance in Megamall in KL that serves this dish and it is super yum.

    Any chance that you can get your hands on this recipe ?

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